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"We are serious about selling music and breaking bands. The more impressions, the more penetration, the better the sales."
——Tom Calderone, MTV/MTV2 Exec. VP Music & Talent Programming
TEN BIG QUESTIONS FOR
TOM CALDERONE
MTV Honcho Explains Network’s New Programming Initiative
Earlier this month, MTV introduced a big rotation change that insiders say should help spur album sales through the end of the year and into next. According to those in the know, the network wants to score better ratings with its video programming, and playing more hits more often is the way they’re going about it.

The initiative, referred to internally as The Big Ten, involves tightening the video playlist overall and concentrating on 10 videos that will receive 30-plus spins per week. The initial Big 10 included Eminem, Good Charlotte, J.Lo, Jay-Z, John Mayer, Missy Elliott, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes. The rotation will be re-evaluated weekly.

MTV/MTV2 Exec. VP Music & Talent Programming Tom Calderone took some time before getting obliterated on egg nogs at the office party to discuss these moves with us losers at HITS.

Please explain the rotation change that went down last week, including the creation of the Big Ten.
We looked at not only our spins, but also the day parts on MTV, and realized that sometimes a B-level alternative clip was having close to the same impressions as an artist as big as Eminem. So, we decided that the TV superstars that our audience cares about should be put at a higher level than the others.

Does research tell you viewers want to see more of the top videos more often, or is this something that is more gut-related?
It is both. We constantly interview our audience to see what they like and what is on the horizon but our gut is just as important. No one could have used research to see if Alicia Keys was going to make it, or The Vines or Avril.

How many more rotations for the top videos does this move entail?
We really don't rotate in the pure radio sense. We place clips in different day parts and shows. Smart labels and managers get that. But those that still lean on spins, for whatever the reason, will be happy to see high double digit spins on MTV.

Will more rotation for the biggest hits and a tighter overall playlist increase the number of viewers in video hours, enabling for the possibility of more video hours being programmed?
We know that video music hours have a ratings ceiling. However, we have already seen with the changes a strong indication that it is working.

Will the changes at MTV have any trickle-down effect at MTV2?
At this time no. If we find talking to the MTV2 core that this new way of playing music videos works for them, then we will move forward.

What has the labels' reaction been to the plan?
So far, so good. But that is only from the labels that have videos in the Big Ten! Seriously, I think that they know that we are serious about selling music and breaking bands. The more impressions, the more penetration, the better the sales.

Do you feel this kind of tightened rotation can break records and boost record sales in a difficult market?
Absolutely, we have already heard from Epic that Good Charlotte (one of the "Big Ten") has seen double digit increase with the new rotation.

Are you planning on spotlighting any one particular genre, i.e. rap, rock, pop? What new musical trends do you see on the horizon?
Pop, Hip-hop and Rhythmic are the main drivers for MTV. This is what our audience wants. It is up to us to pick the right rock bands to break in 2003. Most of the rock over the last year, has been hard to translate to TV, since most of the bands do not have the powerful personality. But we keep trying to find the ones that do. Never give up on the rock!

Will the tightened playlist have any effect on Amy Doyle's shopping momentum or Peter Baron's golf game?
Amy is buying everything in 10's and Peter's handicap is never higher than 10!

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